Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just how much weight *should* we give a critique?

I got knocked on my ass again just a few moments ago.  Seems to be a regular occurrence lately, and I have the ass-scars to prove it.

While involved in a heavy discussion for the last few days--wait, more like a knock-down-drag-out-here, hold my beer conversation--the guy who was gladly engaging me began taking things to a personal level and attacking my character.  Mind you, the conversation began as a discussion about what to say to a writer who gets his feelings hurt with a less-than-glowing critique.  Bitterly, I say, "how appropos."

But follow along.  It wasn't until after I dragged this person back on topic to writing, that he suddenly threw in a critique of The Gaslight Journal.  Now, understand, he obviously couldn't be bothered to actually make his suggested edits in the comments section beneath the book.  Nope.  He had to drag them out into the open in a thread that was already 23 pages long, and then do it in such a way as to make me look like the idiot I probably am, but deny ever being, as I'm fully human. 

The image came to mind of that of an Alpha male chimpanzee.  Part of his job as the Alpha, is to literally smack down the females in a bid to make them become submissive.  And while I am endeared to both apes and chimpanzees, I don't really like the being smacked-down part, especially by a guy who freely admits he's been unable to land a publishing deal with a DTB publisher, and so he's resorted to selling eBooks on Amazon.  While my accomplishments have been small, compared to many of my author friends, I at least can claim publication in both DTB and DTP.

But, back to my story.  As this critique progressed, it was evident that he was digging for things; things that hadn't been pointed out in the 89 other previous comments the book had received.  My first impulse, was to say that the only reason he introduced the comments in the manner in which he did, was so he, being the good Alpha male chimp, could feel the strong urge to smack me down and make me submissive.  It was the only conclusion I could draw, because things he was saying were things like:

You say in this line that she hit the ground, and yet in the next sentence you've got her brushing snow from her skirts.  Which is it, DIRT or SNOW?

Now, I would've thought that anyone in their right mind would've been able to read the line, "Her bustle hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of her," as nothing but a woman's butt hitting the ground.  I didn't say anything about dirt.  I thought it was a widely-accepted colloquial part of our vernacular to say ground when you mean you're outdoors.  Is that not right??  And yet, he seemed to think this was such a passion-killer, that, how did he phrase it?  " in and of itself is a rejection-worthy problem."

Oh, but kiddies, wait--the fun doesn't stop there.  He then proceeds to continue the Carla-bashing by adding such noteworthy gems as, if I had submitted this chapter for editing at a professional editing service, not only would my cheque have been returned, but I would also never see publication. The man said that not only could I not write, but that I clearly sucked. He actually used the term sucked, that no amount of editing or changing would be able to save it, "because the plot is contrived, the character’s behavior is pop psychology, not human behavior. People emote for the watching audience rather than behaving as people living the event."

I gotta say, this was all news to me.

But here is my question:  I'm thinking that had he presented this to me, first, in the proper comments section where it belong, and second, in a rational, less-angry state-of-mind, perhaps I might've entertained his notion a little more seriously.  But, since he chose to use this critique, and that of another one of my manuscripts, as a clear way to humiliate me and beat me down, am I expected to listen to it?  Are any of us?

Please give me your thoughts on this.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do You Think Johnny Depp Would Live In My Living Room?

I sat down to talk about writing non-fiction comedic essays, but was so uninspired to do so (how easy is it to bore yourself?), that I've decided to forgo that lecture and discuss what's been brewing in my mind now for about a week:

Halloween.  What inspires you to creativity?

Pirates of the Caribbean Ride at DisneyWorld, Orlando, FL
If I had the chance, I would literally move into the Pirates of The Caribbean set at DisneyWorld in Orlando, FL.  In fact, it was this very setting, seeing how all of the front pieces were back lit; how they were on a make-shift river; how there were working street lights next to them--that fascinated me and made me want to repeat the ride over and over again.  (I can't believe I actually found this photo!)  I've been a theatre fag and professional actor since college, and once I stepped onto those boards and got a taste of the beauty of the imaginary world, I think someone finally had to call the cops to pull me out of it.

I've always loved the imaginary aspect of being on and interacting with a set.  I mean, think about it:  you can decorate it any way you want to, hardly ever have to clean up after yourself, and you don't have to worry about heating costs in the winter.

And there is something about the masque idea of Halloween that puts me in the mood each autumn to turn my living space into something on such a grand scale that I would need to charge admission if people were to visit.  In fact, I'm sitting here with purple twinkle lights strung all across my desk.  They've been up for the last five days.

And I can clearly envision it, too.

My living room walls would consist of the exterior face of a house.  I wouldn't paint them to look that way, I would actually nail boards up to the walls, complete with curtains on the inside of the glass windows, and a small candle in the sill on some, or a dim light behind the curtain in others, to make it look like someone was inside.  And then of course, I would have to hang a partial roof to overhang the wall, so it would look authentic.

If I really had the money and time and resources, then I would add a small creek through the living room, right next to my newly-developed house, attached to a water feature.  I've visited homes of super rich and bored people before who had a small creek running through their living rooms, and decided I wanted that one day.

I guess part of the reason I loved getting hired to perform at Haunted Nashville this year, was because the attraction had three separate attractions inside, and all of them played into my warped Halloween fantasy.  One is of a full-scale Victorian house, the second where I'll be working, is the house of inventor Tesla, and the third is a real bat cave, not to mention the full-scale, two-story graveyard, with grass, lighting, fog and trees.  These are housed inside an abandoned shopping center, so there is plenty of room left over for expanding the attractions in the coming years.

Plus, I think there's something magical and mystical (not in the spiritual sense) about having a lit set in your living room.  In fact, I get the same sensation when I decorate a doll's house.  Just being able to move things around without throwing out your back is appealing.  I've wanted a doll house now for about the last ten years, and know I can't afford the one I want.  I'd like to be able to purchase a blank shell, and then do ALL of the work on it myself, from wall-papering, to hanging the roofing shingles, one at a time.  Then, I dream about doing all the landscaping, adding a working water feature, and streetlamps, natch.  Mine will be special, however, in that it will have a working dungeon in the basement (I've never seen a doll house with a basement, so mine will be the first) that I can then really decorate for Halloween.  I want my own little cauldron of dry ice, flickering candle-less flame lights and skeletons.

Upstairs in the Victorian parlour, will be the special room saved for the elaborate Christmas decorating, but we'll save that post for a time closer to Christmas.

Have you ever let your imagination run away with you like this?  As writers, you should, on a regular basis.  Don't ever sensor yourself or stop yourself from daydreaming, because that's eventually what leads to the generation of unique ideas, and answering that age-old question, "What if?"

I've recognised that there are three specific times each and every year, like clockwork, when I allow my mind to begin daydreaming.  They are:

August:  As the air begins to hint of drops in temperatures, I begin fantasising of living in a Medieval Castle, complete with torchieres, candelabras and flowing fabrics

September:  With the average temperature now 10-15-degrees less than summer and the sun riding lower in the sky, the temptation of falling leaves and warm blankets send me into daydreaming of haunted houses, sets in living rooms, and other imaginary worlds

November:  Now that the frost is here and the left-over turkey gone, I turn my whirring mind to high-Victorian parlours and drawing rooms, furnished with expansive trees, spicy smells, and log fires.

I've noticed that this free-wheeling daydreaming also help to inspire my art.  I usually end up creating 3D digital worlds based on my hunger for parlours, dungeons and castles.  I'll share those with you soon.

Here are some cool photos I snapped three years ago while in WV visiting my farm family.  I had just decorated the old, expansive porch for Halloween and started playing around with my crappy digital camera.

This is actually a photo of one of those ceramic houses that you buy (like those Christmas village pieces), that was lit only with the orange twinkle lights.  I just thought it added something really spooky.

Here is a far-away view of the porch, lit only by the twinkle lights that I strung down the stairs and the black-lite twinkle lights I hung in clumps from the wooden ceiling.  The house was a mess and nearly unlivable, but oh, how I LOVED that spooky-looking porch!  So much fun to decorate.

In this one, you can see the candle lanterns hanging overhead!  I didn't realise, until going through all these old photos, that I actually had a nice juicy close-up of the two lanterns.  And while I certainly didn't plan it, somehow, thanks to the crap quality of that digital camera (no worries--I have a nice one in which I invested to take digital jewelery photos), I ended up with some innocuous purple halos that are spook-a-licious!

This photo, again crap quality, is of my sliding-glass doors.  In the doors, you can see my 4' wrought-iron candelabra with five purple candles burning, and I added some pumpkin twinkle lights.  Hey--when I get into a holiday, I really get INto it.

These last two were me, sitting on my porch one night in the light of the twinkles, and realising that simply by moving my head up or down by a mere few inches, it drastically changed my profile.

Thank-you for allowing me to share this with you.  When I began this article, I was so uninspired and now, I'm excited again--that adrenaline rush at being able to create is very high.

So, now.  What about YOU?  What makes you inspired to daydream?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'd bitch about health care, but I'm too sick.

My apologies, peeps:  I've been rogue lately.

Was knocked on my butt last week with chest pains and shortness of breath.  When I got home from picking up a few groceries on Wednesday evening at 7:30, I sat down to check my mail like I usually do, when I suddenly felt sharp pain in bands across my back and I was having noticeable trouble breathing.  My breath was coming in short gasps.  My roommate gave me a couple of muscle relaxers, as I thought it might be from my Fibromyalgia, but after thirty minutes I had no relief, and so she decided to take me to hospital.

I HATE going to hospitals.  If you're not clearly dying or decapitated, then they make you sit in the ER forever; although, I've known a few who lost limbs and still weren't considered "trauma".  My minimum that night was 2 hours before being seen by a doctor, and another 2 once I had been seen to await my test results.

The highlight of the evening had to come when they needed to do a CT scan for blood clots or tears in the aorta, but they couldn't get a vein for the IV.  Finally, after yet another chest x-ray and blood work, they sent me home.

Fast-forward to the next night, and I'm still having pain and trouble breathing.  The very handsome doctor whom I saw that night said the only choice left, was to get the IV and do the CT scan.  I think I've had gynecological exams that were more pleasant.  My veins run deep and they roll, so it's nearly impossible to get a good IV on me at anytime.  Tonight was no exception.  I think I stopped counting at twelve times for how many times they had to poke me, and they still ended up doing an EJ (external jugular), and that one they had to try for three different times.  They were tenacious, I'll give 'em that.

But, as soon as they got the pain meds in, I didn't give a flip what they wanted to do after that.

A few hours later, and the handsome doctor returned with the verdict that I had a good case of pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs.  He sent me home with Percocet and orders to follow-up with an off-site doctor.

Here I am a week later, and having just as much pain and breathing trouble, but with no insurance, there is not going to be a doctor on the planet who will see me.  So, it's either make another coma-inducing trip to the ER, or sit in agony, as I've done now for the last two days since running out of my medication.  It burns me up when people begin bitching about health care, who truly have no real need for it.  However, my Systemic Lupus precludes me from the requisite bitching about socialised health care.

Just sorta ootzy that way.

And now after a nice, long break from writing, I'm back, working through the pain.  Think I'll take a break--my back is starting to hurt.